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Memento : Issue 30
6 memeNto News from the National Archives excerpt from mrs mcmahon's incident report: 8. I then spoke to Mrs McMahon, after being apprised of the situation, she intimated that owing to her tight schedule she would not accompany the students to the university but would talk to the spokesmen, and that she would make a donation to the enterprise. She asked me to speak to the spokesman along these lines, and said that she would phone the Prime Minister in Canberra to obtain his views on the matter. 11. On returning to the hairdressing salon at Mrs McMahon's request, I spoke to the Prime Minister by telephone. He was assured that his wife was in no danger from the students and all necessary precautions had been taken for her protection. He agreed that his wife should pay the sum of $10.00 ransom to the student leaders. Two gems from our collection Readers of the Summer–Autumn 2005 edition of Memento might recall mention of the launch of the Archives’ ‘Find of the Month’ – a monthly display focusing on intriguing and interesting items from our collection. The finds are exhibited in our Canberra building and are also featured on our website each month at www.naa.gov.au . Archives’ staff have unearthed two more gems – a government minute from the 1960s explaining why women aren’t suited to the position of trade commissioner; and a document detailing the attempted kidnapping for ransom in 1971 of Sonia McMahon, wife of then Prime Minister William ‘Billy’ McMahon. Clearly, things were very different in the 1960s for it’s hard to imagine a departmental minute so biased against the employment of women being written today, let alone being circulated. Dated 13 March 1963, this note from an officer of the Trade Commissioner Service to his director outlines nine reasons why women should not be appointed trade commissioners. Possible drawbacks include having to run a household as well as holding down a job; not being able to mix freely with businessmen; the possibility of turning into a battleaxe; and taking the place of a man. It was thought that female appointees ‘would not stay young and attractive for ever and later on could well become a problem’. The minute closes with a one-line conclusion – ‘It would seem that the noes have it’. It was the extraordinary attention to detail that impressed our researchers when they set eyes on the security report about the attempted kidnapping of Lady McMahon from a hair salon on Sydney’s north shore by several charity-minded university students – it included everything except the price of a trim! And what a diplomatic hand Lady McMahon played in not disappointing the pranksters, the Camperdown Children’s Hospital or the highest office in the land (see points 8 and 11 below). But one question still remains: Who was Deep Throat, who made the anonymous telephone call to the university switchboard at 12.30pm on Thursday 29 July 1971 advising of Mrs McMahon’s whereabouts?